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Visit Jericho – the oldest city

Jericho, the “Palm City” is a very small city that holds two records: it is the lowest city in the world and probably the oldest. Jericho is located in Area A, which is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, but tours can be arranged there. I invite you to join the lovely trip we did in a city that is so close and so far away.

Hurry up… Will we take a trip to Jericho?

The Jericho of my childhood is vaguely remembered as if in a dream: a wide avenue with celon trees next to it, restaurants with hummus-chips – a paved terrace overlooking the street, hot and dry air hitting my face
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This week I came back to her for a quick visit and it was quite fun to find out that nothing has changed except me. The same sleepy and desert atmosphere, the same beautiful trees that give shade and only the place of the nebulous hummus was occupied by a branch of kfc.

Israelis entering Jericho

Day trip from Jerusalem to Jericho

I strongly advise tourists to visit Jericho with an orgenized tour. there is no direct bus from Jerusalem to Jericho. You can take a bus to Azariya and then catch a bus to Jericho but it’s not generally recommended

is it safe for tourists to visit jericho?

The city is considered quiet and there are no reports of any form of .violence toward tourists

There is a constant tourist police presence in the city in any case of emergency.

Jericho Entry for Israelis

In 1994, as part of the Oslo Accords, Jericho was transferred to the control of the Palestinian Authority, and a Jericho bypass road was built. Since then, Israelis who used to stop on the main street on the way to the Sea of Galilee, to buy a sea wheel in the form of a dog, a carpet or hummus, have not come to the area. The guests from Jerusalem were replaced by pilgrims and tourists.

Recently, probably because of the coronavirus crisis, there has been a hot trend of Israelis visiting the city. Since this is Area A, entry to the site is only on an organized tour, with a security permit. There are several companies that issue such trips. When there are security tensions, the trip is cancelled at the last minute… At the time of registration, a special form must be filled out in which we undertook to behave well, and that we know that the trip is after us and all sorts of unnecessary things. The whole procedure sucks a bit but that too has passed.

As for weapons: don’t even think about it. It is forbidden to bring in weapons and if you are caught you will receive free accommodation in the pampering compound of the Palestinian police for an unknown and unlimited time. Too bad.

There is no checkpoint, fence, or military presence at the entrance to Jericho. Just a red sign warning Israelis against entering. Our minibus just gallops in, through the quiet streets. Our presence is received with complete indifference.

We are greeted by a sign in English “Welcome to the oldest city in the world”.

 visit Jericho Spring of Elisha

Tel Jericho (Tel a Sultan) & The ancient walls of jericho

So Jericho is in the heart of the desert and receives water from two large springs: the Elisha spring and the Na’aran spring.

The Spring of Elisha is called in Arabic Ein a Sultan. Here, according to Jewish tradition, the prophet Elisha performed a miracle of healing the infected spring water, by means of salt affinity. In ancient times, the spring’s emanation allowed the hunter-gatherer tribes that lived here to settle next to it and begin to develop a village of permanent residence.

In the mound near the spring (or at least to its original place of emanation) amazing remains from 11,500 years ago have been found, which, according to researchers, makes the place the first settlement in the world to be surrounded by a wall.

visit jericho walls

At Tel a Sultan, layers upon layers of archaeological remains from different periods were found, the earliest being mud brick walls from over ten thousand years ago. The bricks have been preserved as a result of the dry and desert weather in the place.it is amazing to look at the mud bricks and realize that this fence was built 11,000 years ago!

According to Jewish tradition, right here, the Jericho Wall stood. The Bible describes Jericho as the first city that the Israelites conquered after crossing the Jordan River.

Its conquest is somewhat mysterious: the Israelites were ordered to surround the city wall every day once and on the seventh day seven times. Seven priests stuck in the shofars and then the city walls just collapsed. Some identify Tel a Sultan with the place where the biblical city was located. It is clear that such an identification has geopolitical implications, and therefore the analysis of archaeological findings there constitutes fertile ground for the struggle over both the Israeli and Palestinian narratives.

While the Jewish communities in the area market trips to the “Tower of the Prostitute’s Rahav” (I swear to you, I didn’t make it up, I actually saw such an ad), other researchers believe that there is no archaeological evidence in the Tel that fits the description of the Book of Joshua.

 

The Excavations of Kathleen Kenyon in Jericho

Kathleen Kenyon was an impressive and unusual woman for her time. Her father was the director of the British Museum and she followed in his footsteps and studied archaeology. In 1952, she came to Tel Jericho and conducted excavations that lasted five years. Kenyon came to the conclusion that the wall that surrounded the city was destroyed long before the time of Joshua and that there is no trace of the wall in the tel that could fit the biblical story. Kenyon’s findings probably aroused the ire of the Jews, who argued against the excavation method it invented (and is named after it today), which is not thorough and reliable enough.

One of the most amazing finds of a canyon is a huge tower with a diameter of 8.5 meters. The effort invested in its construction at a time when there were no technological means at all, testified to the fact that it was a watchtower.

Over the past decade, the place has been studied again by Ran Barkai and Roy Liran, researchers from Tel Aviv University. Their hypothesis was that it was a tower built for a ritual purpose. They found that the shadow of the nearby Carantel mountain penetrated through the opening of the tower exactly on the longest day of the year. Their findings reinforced the hypothesis that the construction of the tower was not related to practical reasons but to ritual-astronomical purposes. More about the study – here.

ancient jericho

After visiting the Tel you can watch a nice movie in English that explains about the place. I noticed that in the Palestinian film the “Hasmoneans” were censored and the huge summer palace they built on the outskirts of the city is defined as “Herod’s palace”.

 

Visit Jericho» Boarding the cable car to the Mount of temptetion

The view of Jericho is yellowish and dusty. Everywhere you can see the date trees that are the symbol of the city. Amidst this desert atmosphere, the red cable car that goes up to the Carnthal looks almost surreal.

The cable car was built in 1998 by a Swiss company. The length of the cable car is a little less than a kilometer and a half, and its entire route is actually below sea level. Its upper station, at an altitude of minus 50, is at the top of the Carantial mountain.

visit jericho cable car

The cost of the cable car: 60 NIS per person (there is some discount if you arrive with a group). I ask the Palestinian clerk if there is a situation for the discount, which entitles me to a serfdom look. I immediately took out a wallet and paid. After all, not every day goes on a trip to the country and feel in Switzerland.

The cable car may be Swiss but the maintenance is Palestinian and without insulting – it’s a bit scary. Especially after being told that the cable car was shut down for a long time in 2015 after a fire broke out in it. (Don’t believe it? You are invited to see everything filmed inthe video)

From the windows of the cable car there is a beautiful view of the mound, of blue water reservoirs and a million date and banana trees. From above, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems distant, just like the skyscrapers of Amman, which are well visible in fine days. Asked to drink freshly squeezed orange juice here in front of the spectacular view.

Two men in a Subaru from the 1980s arrive on a slow drive to the top, they offer me “fresh dates of Jericho”. Haggling a bit and buying a box for 20 NIS. Afternoon we will visit the Deir Hajala monastery and see the same box at ten.

Before the corona, the cafes here were full of tourists and pilgrims. Now there are no tourists and the café lights are off. Sad…

orenjet in jericho

mount of temtation jericho

Those who are more sporty (or more anxious) can skip the cable car and climb up the mountain on foot.

The Carnatal – The Mountain of Seduction

The name “Carnatel” is taken from the Latin word meaning “forty” and in Hebrew it is called “the mountain of seduction”. Christians believe that this is where Jesus came from, after crossing the Jordan River and being baptized into Christianity. Since he probably didn’t take the cable car, the question arises as to what did Jesus have to look for here, on the arid peak?

Well – Satan himself tried to tempt Jesus into the path of evil. For 40 days Jesus waited up here and was not tempted, so the place was considered sacred by the believers. From ancient times, there were secluded caves and prayer and hiding places, on top of which a Greek Orthodox monastery was built in the 4th century. The monastery was built by the monk Khariton, whose story I told at length in a post about monasteries in the Monastery of Judah.

Half of the monastery is carved into the hard rock of the mountain and half is on stilts.

A walk down the narrow passageway between the rooms and the rock will bring you to the monastery church. In the past, dozens of monks lived here, today only one. The monastery has opening hours but they are really a recommendation and sometimes the monk just closes the gate without warning.

carantel jerichojericho trip

Visit Jericho » Hisham Palace

No trip to Jericho is complete without a visit to Hisham Palace. The walk on the ruins of the palace ignites the imagination: here, on the magnificent mosaic floor, the rich people of the House of Umayyad walked in 724 AD. The Winter Palace was very magnificent and included natural gardens, huge mosaics, a bathhouse and even a toilet. The palace stood still for only 27 years until it was destroyed in the great earthquake that took place here in 749 AD.

Hisham Palace

For centuries the place stood desolate and covered in sand, until in 1934 British archaeologists discovered it and carried out excavations there. The artifacts can be found today at the Rockefeller Museum. In 2015, the Palestinian Authority began to rehabilitate the site and recently opened to the public the floor of the magnificent bathhouse, which is known as the largest mosaic in the world: 825 square meters in size.

Hisham Palace

Where can you go after a trip to Jericho?

Here are some ideas:

Qasr el Yahud

Qasr el Yahud: The “Palace of the Jews” is a national park located where according to Jewish tradition the Israelites crossed the Jordan River on the way to Canaan and according to Christian tradition, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The place has an interesting history and you can see groups of pilgrims dipping in Jordan.

Read more about Qasr el Yahud

Qasr el YahudPhoto: Itzik Tal

Ein Auja sping

A nature reserve with a stream, a spring spring and other surprises. The reserve is located near the settlement of Yatav close to the city of Jericho.

Auja hiking trail

Read more about Ein Auja 

Deir Hajala: Monastery of Saint Gerasimus

An impressive Greek-Orthodox monastery with a church, a large courtyard with picnic areas, a snack bar and more.

Deir Hajala Monastery

Read more about Deir Hajla

Wadi Qelt and St. George

Wadi Qelt, or by its Hebrew name “the prat river”, is a beautiful stream that flows from the outskirts of Jerusalem to the Jericho area and along with it many interesting sites, hiking trails, ponds, and monasteries.

View of St. George's Monastery

Read more about Ein Qelt and St. George

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It’s great that you joined me on a trip to Jericho. To get more travel ideas, sign up for the mailing list or follow me on Instagram.

Looking for a company that takes trips to Jericho? Here are two recommendations:

Trip to Jericho with the company “Tours and Legends”

Trip to Jericho with Four Kings

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